May 24, 2017 — An Important Day in Drone-related News

In one day, we learned that DJI, a Chinese company that pwnds the drone hardware space, is now near perfectly vertically integrated and that the “do what you can’t” mentality actually (finally) has consequences.

Yesterday, DJI formally announced the world’s most attractive hobby drone…the DJI Spark.

Without going into too much detail about why the Spark is the most attractive hobby drone in the market, let’s just say it rounds out DJI’s offering of hardware for everything from selfie drones to industrial-grade & cinematic wonder machines.

DJI’s current offering

Earlier this year, you might have learned that DJI bought into a majority stake of Hasselblad, the renown Swedish high-end camera manufacturer. Despite that acquisition, it’s fair to say…

DJI is the 800 lb gorilla in the room and it doesn’t seem anyone (from any country) is able to even come close.
And I’m not the first to say this.

So DJI is a Shenzhen-based market dominator that made a major product announcement today. But arguably the more important announcement for US-based drone pilots happened during a short, yet important YouTube video.

If you scroll to 1:38 in the video above, you’ll notice Casey saying…

“I’m uhh, I’m under investigation by the FAA and I can’t fly in New York City anymore because I don’t want to get in trouble and it’s irresponsible and you shouldn’t do it either.”
Casey flying the GoPro Karma https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cf16mp6Nbh8

In case you’ve been living under a rock (or just don’t have time to keep up-to-date on drone-related news on a daily basis like a normal person), Casey Neistat has been one of the web’s most prolific drone advocates/ promoters/ celebrities/ users/ personalities/ violators/ etc.

Averaging millions of views for each video he puts up on his YouTube channel, Casey has made a name for himself by personifying the mantra:

Do What You Can’t

From a promotional perspective, I get it. That mantra is motivational, brazen and even liberating. It asks you to question authority in a badass/rebellious way, all without explicitly spelling out what it is that you should actually do. The underlying theme is probably even better epitomized by the Rebellion in Star Wars.

Isn’t it cool to be a rebel?! Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The Rebellion is fighting against the oppression of the domineering Galactic Empire. I dare explain more at the expense of being roasted by my audience, but if you’ve really never seen Star Wars, that’s really what the entire storyline boils down to. Good (the Rebellion in this case) vs. Evil (the Galactic Empire). The Jedi vs. the Darkside. Kids vs. their fathers. Adventurous drone fliers vs. the regulation-loving FAA.

GIF Courtesy of NBC Universal

Wait, that last one isn’t from Star Wars. It’s from Real Life.

Yes, there is a real, ongoing, galactic struggle between the FAA and, well, lots of people. Everyone from industry stakeholders, manufacturers, people that hate drones, people that love drones, certified remote pilots and almost everyone in between. And while some people are relatively content with the current regulations as they relate to both hobby and commercial use of drones, the nascent nature of the industry results in an opinion & data related state of flux. Just last week a court ruled that hobbyists don’t even have to register their drones anymore.

But yesterday, the “public” announcement that Casey Neistat is being investigated by the FAA…well…it’s a BIG DEAL.

Regardless of what side of the argument you’re on as it relates to how much federal governmental oversight there should be when it comes to the outdoor use of aerial drones, the news that Casey is being investigated is a sign that the wild west days of drone flying are on their way out. That being said, illegal drone flying can and likely will never be completely eliminated, but at least the resounding message from yesterday’s news is that even our beloved celebrities are not above the law. For a long time, it didn’t seem that way.

In case you’ve been living under another rock, the drone industry is heavily regulated in the United States. And without the resources to go after every individual rogue drone pilot, the FAA has been pushing for the industry to “police itself”.

And while reports of illegal drone sightings are publicly available (https://www.faa.gov/uas/resources/uas_sightings_report/), I would argue the announcement that a figurehead like Casey Neistat is being investigated by the FAA sends a clear signal to his followers and individuals on the rebellious side of the argument that consistently violating existing regulations (whether you’re a hobbyist or a commercial drone pilot) will eventually catch up with you.

Not everyone can rent or borrow a Ferrari to drive out somewhere in Class G airspace to fly their drone at will like Casey, so he’s still very cool. But at least even he now has to “play by the rules”.


Thanks for reading!
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